Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Covered Orange Peel

This has been a favorite of my dad's for as long as I can remember, and as I have gotten older, my tastes have changed enough that now I love it too. This is the third time I have attempted this treat (only the second successful one), and this is definitely the best recipe I have found for it. Enjoy.

Chocolate Covered Orange Peel

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

3 large navel oranges, scrubbed

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (The best you can find)

For the Peel

Using a sharp knife, cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of each orange to expose the flesh. Score the peel of each orange into quarters, cutting through the white pith, and carefully pull the quarters of peel off the orange. Using a sharp spoon, scrape off any stringy membranes from the inside of the peel (do not scrape off the white pith). Cut each quarter crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

*A few other recipes I have tried in the past instructed the removal of the pith. Don't do it. The pith is what soaks in the sugar, and prevents the peel from becoming incredibly sticky. It also leaves more peel, which means more flavor.*

Put the orange peel in a large heavy saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Drain. Repeat two more times (blanching the peel removes the bitterness).

Return the orange peel to the saucepan, add cold water to cover by about 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the peel is tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine the corn syrup, sugar and water in the same saucepan in which you blanched the peel and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the orange peel.

Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring once or twice, until the peel is translucent and very tender, and the syrup has reduced to about half a cup, 45 minutes to an hour.

*Do not allow the syrup to reduce to less than this, or the bottom of the pan will become too hot and will crystallize the sugar. Seriously. I tried doing this last year, and melted the pan because I fell asleep.*

Using a slotted spoon or a fork, transfer the peel to a wire rack to drain, separating all the strips of peel. (I use a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Less clean up afterward.) Let cool and let stand until dry, at least 4 hours - overnight is best.

Once the orange peel is thoroughly dry, it can be stored in an airtight tin at room temperature for up to 1 week.

For the Chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. This involves filling the bottom pot about half full with water, putting the chocolate in the top pot, and heating uncovered at a low temperature. If you do not have a double boiler, you can improvise one with a pot and a glass bowl.

Melt the chocolate, and stir to make sure it is smooth.

Turn off the heat. Dip each piece of peel in the chocolate and cover as much as desired. Lay on a piece of wax or parchment paper to dry. You may have chocolate left over, so have some other dried fruit or nuts on hand to dip. I used dried cranberries and pieces of candied ginger.

This is a time consuming recipe, so make sure you are into it before attempting. It is delicious though, and not terribly difficult, so it is good for someone just starting out in the chocolate making field. I find it helps to listen to the soundtrack for Chocolat to put you in the mood. :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Recipe - Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole

If you're like me, you probably have a Tupperware container full of chicken/turkey/grouse/ostrich/Big Bird in your fridge right now. If you're also like me, the idea of pulling out a piece of meat - touching it in any way - and eating it repulses you. So, what are you to do with all of that food, which, given a few weeks, may resolve itself into some mutant, eyeless freak of nature and peck you to death in your sleep?

You do this.

Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole

1 can of cream of celery soup
1/2 bag frozen peas (about 8 oz)
1/3 C milk
2 C chicken
3 C stuffing

Add soup, peas and milk to a microwave safe bowl, cover. Microwave 3 minutes, stir and re-cover, then microwave 4 minutes more.

Add chicken and two cups of stuffing, stir, top with remaining stuffing. Microwave uncovered for 7-9 minutes.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

This year for Thanksgiving, rather than try to split time between four households and two states, Dave and I decided to make our families come to us. The result was both of our mothers being here for a few days, exploring the wonder that is Maine.

Thursday we cooked and ate all day. I have never done much of the cooking for a holiday before, and I was amazed at how tiring it is. I passed out pretty much as soon as my head hit the pillow that night.

On Friday, because my mom wanted to, we all went to the beach. It was freezing but we all acted like little kids - picking up shells and rocks, running from the waves, in my case taking far too many photos and being grossed out by the very dead seal on the shore.

We even got a surprisingly good photo of all of us.

Dave, his mom, me, my mom

For the rest of Friday and much of Saturday we ate, shopped, and just lazed around.

On Sunday we went into Portland to eat and shop more (are you beginning to see a theme here?).

We found a human sized lobster wandering the streets of Portland, no doubt advertising for some restaurant. Naturally, I got a picture with it. The back of his/her shirt said "Eat Me".

Dave and I had seen a harbor seal in the bay they last time we were in Portland for lunch, so we walked down a pier to see if we could spot some more. Sadly, we didn't, but the view was still worth the trip.

It was a really fun weekend - I'm glad we decided to be difficult and make Mohammad come to the mountain.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu!

Baked Brie with Apple Butter

Main Course:
Chicken (I hate turkey) with apple and cranberries

Side dishes:
Cranberry sauce (the one from a can, I love it)
Sweet potatoes
Confetti Green Beans

Noodle kugel with apple pie filling
Jello salad
Blackberry pie
Pumpkin pie

Thanksgiving recipe #7 - Harvest Chicken

The chicken was probably the easiest thing we made today - using a crock pot to cook it not only made it self sufficient, but it kept the oven free for the hundred and one other dishes we were making. For this we added to a recipe my mom had used recently, to much success.

Harvest Chicken

1 whole chicken, and additional parts depending on how many people you are feeding
Apple cider (I used cinnamon apple cider for added flavor)
4 apples, sliced
dried cranberries
mulling spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, orange peel, etc)

Set the crock pot to cook for 6 hours - this will allow the chicken to cook for a while, and keep it out of your hair all day, but it wont get too dry.

Make sure the chicken is cleaned out, remove all wayward feathers.

Put the chicken in the crock pot.

Cover the chicken with apple cider - use enough to fill the crock pot halfway. Drop in dried cranberries and mulling spices, cover the top with apple slices.

Cook for the full six hours.

Make sure to remove all bones and cloves - cloves are edible, but kinda nasty, so try to avoid them.

The chicken was delicious, and we even used the serving plate my grandmother sent us :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving recipe #5 -Blackberry Pie

Yet another dessert - only one more after this, I promise :)

The store had a buy 1, get 2 free sale on blackberries, so this is the result. I found this recipe on, and made a few changes as per the comments. Hopefully it tastes as good as it looks.

Update: It did. If not better.

Blackberry Pie

4 C fresh blackberries
1/2 C white sugar
1/4 C instant tapioca
A 9 inch double crust pie (store bought, I didn't have the patience for a hand made one)
white sugar

Place the bottom crust into pie pan, brush with a little bit of egg or eggbeaters (this prevents the crust from becoming soggy). Combine 3 1/2 cups berries with the sugar and tapioca - mix until there are no clumps of white anymore, all dry ingredients stick to berries. Spoon the mixture into pie shell.

Spread the remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of the sweetened berries, and cover with the top crust. Seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with egg, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 425 degree F (220 degrees C) for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.

Thanksgiving recipe #4 - Jello and Marshmallow Salad

This is another desert recipe - it is beginning to look as though we will have 4 deserts tomorrow, oy - and one that comes from Dave's family rather than mine. I idea of marshmallow salad always kind of put me off, but this is insanely delicious.

Grammy’s Green Jello and Marshmallow Salad

1 3oz pkg Lime Jello
¼ C sugar
1 C hot water
1 1/2 C miniature marshmallows
1 C crushed canned pineapple, fully drained of liquid
1 C cottage cheese (small curd)
1 C chopped walnuts (optional)
1 C heavy whipping cream (whipped) or Cool Whip

Mix together jello and sugar, then add hot water and stir until fully dissolved.

Add marshmallows, stir and let cool - wait until the jello feels like it is starting to set.

Add pineapple, cottage cheese and walnuts. Fold whipping cream into jello mixture, cover and chill in refrigerator for several hours until set - overnight is best.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving recipe #3 - Confetti Green Beans

Day three of my Thanksgiving recipe week brings you Confetti Green Beans - one of my favorite new vegetable dishes. It is really easy to make, looks festive, and tastes delicious. Since this one has no set measurements, judge for yourself how much of everything you need, based on how many people you are cooking for.

Confetti Green Beans

Green beans
Sliced almonds
dried cranberries
vegetable oil
boiling water

Have enough beans for the number of people you are cooking for - half a handful per person works well.

A tablespoonful of dried cranberries per handful of beans is a roughly the right amount - you don't want the cranberries to overpower the beans, but you want them noticeable, for both taste and color. The same goes for the sliced almonds. Just cover the cranberries in some boiling water for about 5 minutes, enough to get them soft.

Saute the green beans in oil for a few minutes, until they turn a bright, vibrant green. Pour in the water and cranberries, saute a few more minutes. Add the almonds, cook for another 30 seconds, and remove from heat.

Serve as soon as possible.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving recipe #2 - Noodle Kugel

Posting the recipe for The Pie - as well as checking the Black Friday deals page every hour - has given me the idea of posting a new recipe every day this week, based on my planned menu for Thanksgiving.

I have already posted the recipe for the Baked Brie and Apple Butter I plan on making as an appetizer, so here is another dessert recipe. I am not, incidentally, making The Pie this year. I may do so for Christmas, but four people just isn't enough to consume that monstrosity.

Noodle Kugel

1lb medium egg noodles
2/3 C water drained from noodles (saved)
6 eggs (1 1/2 C egg beaters)
¼ lb margarine
16oz applesauce or apple pie filling (I am using an apple cranberry pie filling from Trader Joe's)
½ C sugar
1 t vanilla
1 C white raisins, cherries or dried cranberries (optional)

Boil noodles, drain and reserve 2/3 C water. Mix margarine with drained noodles and water. Add eggs, applesauce or pie filling, sugar, cinnamon & vanilla. Add raisins if desired.

Grease 9x13”pan. Add noodles, sprinkle top with mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In advance, a Thanksgiving treat - The Pie!

Since Jocelyn asked so nicely, here is, just in time for Thanksgiving, the greatest apple pie recipe in the world. This was originally called the Special Apple Pie, but since then, it has become so infamous that if you say ‘The Pie’ in a serious tone, all of my family and friends will understand what is meant. This pie is made only at Thanksgiving, because one’s heart can only take this kind of abuse once a year. But it is sooo worth it.

Special Apple Pie, or, The Pie (Deep Dish)


1 ¾ c. all purpose flour
¼ c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. salt
½ c. plus 2 T. butter (1 ¼ sticks)

For crust, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter using pastry blender (also called 'a fork') until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add water, toss gently with fork until evenly moistened. Gather dough into a ball and transfer to lightly floured board. Roll into a circle larger than a deep 10” pie plate. Ease pastry into plate and flute a high edge. Set aside.

As documented in an earlier post, crusts are easier said than done. If you don't have a lot of time, or simply don't want the rise in blood pressure, just get a pie crust from the store. HOWEVER, bear in mind that this recipe is for a DEEP DISH pie, so you will need TWO regular sized pie crusts for the same amount of filling as one deep dish crust.

*Because someone found this last bit of direction confusing: if you do not make a crust, and instead buy two normal-sized crusts, this will result in two pies. You will not somehow mold the two crusts together, or stack them, or who knows what else - you will simply make the filling and put it in the two separate pie crusts. Therefor, two pies.*


8 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and sliced (McIntosh are the best, but an hard, tart baking apples will do)
1 2/3 c. sour cream
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 egg
2 t. vanilla
½ t. salt

For filling, preheat oven to 450 degrees.

A quick note on slicing apples:

In order for apples to bake well, they must be relatively thin. Rather than cutting wedges, or using an apple slicer, it is easier to peel the apple, and cut slices off the sides. The pieces will naturally all be different shapes - the first few will be circles off the sides, then more rectangular in shape - and this will also help them fit better within the pie crust.

Combine apples, sour cream, sugar, flour, egg, vanilla and salt in a large bowl and mix well.

Spoon into crust.

Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until filling is slightly puffed and golden brown, about 40 minutes longer. (If edges of crust brown too quickly, cover with strips of foil.)

As you can see in that last photo, I used two different types of crust. On the left is a Graham Cracker crust, on the right is a Pillsbury refrigerated crust. The latter worked far better for this type of pie.


1 c. chopped walnuts
½ c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon
½ c. butter (1 stick), room temperature

For topping, combine walnuts, flour, sugars and cinnamon and mix well. Blend in butter until mixture is crumbly.

Spoon over pie and bake 15 minutes more.

This is one of my favorite recipes, and I love introducing it to new people. Let me know if you make it, and how it turned out. Bon appetit and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - Movie Review


Dave and I went to see HP 7 pt 1 at the midnight release - the first time I had done so for a Harry Potter film, and only the second ever (the first was for Star Wars: Episode Three - George Lucas needs more money). Fortunately, I can say that I liked The Deathly Hallows more than Revenge of the Sith.

Sadly, not by much.

Now, I know many of my issues with the movie - as they have been with all in this series - are due to the fact that I am a huge fan of the books. Very rarely do you get a movie adaptation that is comparable to the book - The Lord of the Rings films come to mind as some of the only in this category. I have been consistently disappointed with the Harry Potter films in large part because they are being targeted at children, and consequently are much shorter and lighter than they would be if they were more true to the books. Two and a half hours simply isn't enough to do justice to a 700 page book. That's 150 pages of script, which involves considerably less than 150 pages of prose.

A lot of characters and plot lines have been left out of the films that made sense, I will not argue with that. Peeves was missed, but never terribly necessary, other than for comic relief. Other things, however, ought to have been kept in: Hedwig's name is never mentioned in The Sorcerer's Stone, Harry's patronus is never explained in The Prisoner of Azkaban, and even Dubledore's death in The Half Blood Prince is almost entirely glossed over. This, and the failure to introduce characters in earlier movies, made for an extremely choppy and abrupt experience with The Deathly Hallows part 1.

The first 15 minutes of the film viewed like a bullet-point list of information: the Dursleys leave, Hermione wipes the memories of her parents, Tonks and Lupin are suddenly married, and oh yea, that's Mundungus Fletcher, who we should have seen two movies ago. It was as though the writer read the first 50 pages of the book, went "Damn, I need to establish this and this and this", and decided to do it all in one sentence. I was rather unimpressed with the writing.

Meanwhile, omissions are happening all over the place, some of which really detract from the characters. We get to build-up of Ron loosing his cool, he just suddenly snaps. We had a nice little scene with Harry and Ginny at the beginning of the film, and as soon as the trio leave the wedding, that's it. No mention of her. This makes Harry look quite the jerk, not giving a damn about his (ex)girlfriend, who also happens to be Ron's sister.

At the same time as all of these parts are being left out, we get to one of my biggest complaints of the movies: writers adding their owns scenes just for the hell of it. Hermione wiping her parents memories was a tear-jerking scene which could have been summed up in a sentence the way it was in the book. The Harry/Hermione dance scene was utterly pointless, and the time could have been used much better. The extremely bizarre storytelling sequence could have been shortened considerably, and I would have preferred live action rather than the shadow puppet animation.

(Side note, did anyone else think that Death looked suspiciously like General Grievous from Revenge of the Sith?)

The one part that was left in, which I felt could have been easily removed (I felt like this about the book as well) was the destruction of the locket. That was a long (rather risque) scene which, when compared to the destruction of the other horcruxes, is overkill. Again, I felt the time could have been put to better use elsewhere.

Overall, my feeling about the movie was that it was very choppy. There is so much to cover in the book - and this first part covered the first 2/3rds, rather than the first 1/2. There was no sense of the time that the trio have to spend planning everything - we just go from one scene to another with no time to breathe in between. Rather than the methodical, mature characters we get in the book, the Harry, Ron and Hermione of the movie plunge into things face first without thinking them through.

All in all, not a fan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Balsamic Glazed Cipollini Onions

We went to the farmers market in Augusta, Maine a few weeks ago, and I got a small bag of cipollini onions - in Italian, that means 'onion onions'. How creative. The people who were selling them suggested using the enclosed recipe, as the onions are so flavorful on their own it is a shame to use them as an ingredient in a more complex dish.

Balsamic Glazed Cipollini Onions

6-8 Cipollini onions
boiling water
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

First, remove the onion skin by dipping the onions in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove and quickly peel. Place onions in a baking dish and sprinkle liberally with oil, vinegar and salt, and whatever other seasonings you wish.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Reduce to 350 degrees if the glaze concentrates too quickly.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Dreams are weird. Everyone knows that. The so-called "most common dreams" - falling, being chased, teeth falling out, being back at school, and spousal infidelity - are basic. I have had all of these elements in dreams countless times, but dreams, at least for me, are far more complicated than that.

A lot of people don't remember their dreams at all, and many people have very basic dreams. Dave can often remember only one part of a dream, if he remembers anything at all. I think it must have something to do with how deeply one sleeps - Dave is a fairly deep sleeper, and in the time it takes him to wake up, he has forgotten most of what he was dreaming about. I am an incredibly light sleeper - it takes me a long time to fall asleep in the first place, and after that anything can wake me up - and I usually remember my dreams in vivid detail.

Let's compare some dreams, so you can see what I mean.

A few nights ago, Dave dreamed that he played basketball with Darth Vader and lost (this makes sense, as Darth Vader would be considerably taller than Dave). Dave also frequently talks in his sleep, and his recount of the dream explained why he had been muttering, "Not another foul... not another foul..." earlier than night.

Dave is also known for waking violently from nightmares and scaring me half to death. The resultant "What is wrong with you?!" from has been answered with "A giant bug... landed on me...", "I thought they were butterflies, but they were wasps!" and, my personal favorite, "I dreamed I was a poop." That last one has been retold many times, much to Dave's chagrin, but it is still at the top of my list of funniest dreams ever. To go more in detail, he was a poop, and awoke as he hit the water in the toilet bowl. I have never heard of someone dreaming that they were an inanimate object before, but there is a first time for everything.

It is a very rare occasion when Dave remembers enough of a dream that it still has a clear storyline. He had one a few nights ago where he and three other men were chasing Stanley Tucci. They were some sort of mafia but the reason for the pursuit was unclear. Dave and the other men (who happened to be Christopher Walken, Robert DeNiro and a third unnamed bad-ass) were driving around in a white van, dressed entirely in white, and occasionally pursuing on foot. At one point they were required to jump a fence, which DeNiro did with agility. Dave was scared, so he rolled under it. Walken, naturally, walked through it. I love that, even in dreams, Christopher Walken is god-like.

I sometimes wake from dreams not remembering anything about them, but with some phrase from the dream stuck in my head. If I have enough brain power, I write them down. I found this note scribbled on a piece of paper a few weeks ago:
"At one point someone said 'oh no, I don't like them either, only with much more informed prejudices'. I believe it was Neil Gaiman talking about fantasy novels of the 1960s." I enjoy the idea that Neil Gaiman and I discuss literature in my subconscious.

I often dream about music, or have dreams that involve music, or wake from dreams with some song or other stuck in my head. I recently had a dream where Dave, Jocelyn, Terrell and I were singing the theme for The Magic School Bus, and I was getting very frustrated that they did not know all the words. Upon reflection the next morning, I discovered that I do, in fact, remember all the words to that song. Why?

Last, but by no means least, I shall relate the story of my infamous 'Crazy Dream!'. This happened sometime over the course of the summer of 2008, and has been retold more times than I can count. I don't know if I had a fever that night, or if I ate some bad cheese, or if one of my roommates slipped me some acid, but what resulted was this, in all it's detail:

The dream starts out at school (Syracuse University) – it is the end of sophomore year and we are getting ready to leave for the summer. However, I hadn't been staying at the dorms for a while; I have been renting a room from a weird old man who was actually the father of all the Baldwin brothers. There were photos of all the sons around the house, but Mr. Baldwin was angry with Alec for some reason, so all of the photos of Alec were blocked by vases and boxes and other stuff.

For whatever reason, I was in an end-of-the-year concert at school, and we were playing the suite from Indiana Jones. I wasn’t playing the violin (which I have played since I was 10), however - I was playing this non-existent instrument like an oboe without keys that was 8 feet long. I kept trying to play right into the microphone, and the conductor kept moving the mic away, and then finally someone took my instrument from me.

I was really sad that my boyfriend hadn't gone to the concert, so I went to look for him. On the way, I tried to call him , but my phone told me that he had used up all the power on his phone by watching a football game on it. I met up with Jocelyn who said we needed to take our dirty dishes to the 'cleaning place', so we did. Apparently, though we didn’t have to pay for it, we were encouraged to donate money, and I didn’t have any, so I ran away.

Then I saw my grandparents, and my grandma gave me a hug, but my grandpa didn’t want to talk to me. They said that I could put my stuff into their car, so I went to do that - meanwhile, they looked at stuff Hannah (my sister) had done for graphic design, all of which was Lisa Frank-esque. When I went down to the car, my mom was there and she said that I had a visitor. I was really hoping it was my boyfriend, but it was in fact an old friend of mine. He said he needed to talk to me alone, and my mom got really mad, but I said that I was in love with my boyfriend, and nothing would happen, and that she needed to leave. So she did.

This other guy proceeded to try to kiss me, so I hit him. He said that he only just realized that I had liked him, and that he messed it up, and wanted another chance. I told him it was too late. I tried to put my stuff in the car and he kept trying to kiss me, so I kept running around the car to get away.

I finally saw my boyfriend and ran to give him a hug, and he gave me a hug back. THEN I saw the horse. It looked mostly like a horse, only with really mangy fur and teeth like an alligator. So I said (very loudly) "Is that a horse?!" As soon as it heard me, it ran across the road and jumped the fence and over us. That scared me, so I tried to calm it down, and then it snorted and BREATHED FIRE!!!

So my boyfriend said, matter-of-factly "oh, it's a satanic horse." So we ran in the house which was suddenly there. I told my dad (who was also suddenly there) that there was an evil, fire breathing horse outside, and he got really upset, shouted "you're going crazy and you're not even in Ohio!" and shot himself in the head! So I picked up the gun and tried to kill the horse, but the gun told me that it was out of bullets.

Then a booming voice from on high said "Find the tin cup! Defeat the horse with the tin cup!" but I couldn’t find one. I found a bag of carrots in the fridge when I was looking for the tin cup, and wanted to feed the horse, and my boyfriend started yelling at me to find the cup and I started crying... and then I woke up.

I have no idea what was going on in my brain that night, but I do know that it has lead to one of my favorite inside jokes ever. One needs only to bellow "Defeat the horse with the tin cup!" to get my friends cracking up. I hope this has amused a few more of you as well.

Respond with your own crazy dreams, and sleep tight!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pear Bread Pudding

We had a bunch of pears left over from Dave's mother's visit last week, and neither of us are a huge fan of them on their own, so I looked for a recipe that calls for them. As soon as the words "bread pudding" escaped me, Dave was all for it.

This recipe is a variation of one I found on It required some tweaking, and it could probably do with some more, so if anyone has any notes, please respond with them.

Pear Bread Pudding

Crumb Topping
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs white sugar
1/2 C and 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs (1 C eggbeaters)
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C half-and-half cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbs pear brandy*
1/4 tsp salt

1 (1 pound) loaf sliced artisan bread, cut into 3/4 inch strips
3 pears - peeled, cored and sliced
1 C heavy cream

2 medium sized bowls
9x13 inch baking dish

aluminum foil
2 dinner plates/a second baking pan
a pan larger than 9x13 or a cookie sheet with sides

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees f

Crumb Topping
In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, white sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Mix in the butter and vanilla just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, white sugar, half-and-half, vanilla, pear brandy and salt.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish with a layer of bread. Top with a layer of pear. Pour about 1/2 of the custard over the layers followed by about 1/2 of the heavy cream. Sprinkle with some of the crumb topping. Repeat layers until you are out of ingredients, ending with the crumb topping on top.

Press down on the layers as needed to help them absorb the liquid. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Place another baking pan on top or two dinner plates to keep it from puffing while it bakes.

Place the pudding onto a larger pan or cookie sheet with sides. Pour boiling water into the bottom pan until it is half way full.

Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees f and continue baking for 45 minutes. Pudding is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

This is super yummy, and really filling, so you will have leftovers for breakfast or snacks. I really want to try this recipe with other types of fruit as well, since pear is still not my favorite.

* We could not find pear brandy, so I used ginger brandy instead. It was very good, though I'd like to see how pear brandy adds to the flavor in the future.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Baked Brie with Apple Butter

This is a super easy and delicious appetizer inspired by what we had at The Stone Cellar.

1 small round of Brie
Apple butter
Artisan bread

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the brie in half lengthwise. Cover the inside of one half with a generous spread of apple butter and place in a baking dish. I used waxed paper so I wouldn't have to clean as much.

Place the other half of the brie on top, rind up, and cover that with more apple butter.

Bake the brie at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the apple butter beginning to caramelize.

While the brie is baking, toast some slices of bread to serve with the cheese.

Let the brie cool for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven. Cut into sixths and serve.

That's it! And it's delicious.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Amish Friendship Bread!

Dave's mom came to visit us this weekend, and she brought with her a coveted Amish Friendship bread starter. I had made the bread earlier in the summer, but, due to travel, was not able to keep the cycle going. I will try to keep up with it this time, and even if I fail, I now have the recipe for the starter.

Note: I have yet to test the starter recipe, so if it bombs, please let me know.

To start:

1 package (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water (110 degrees f)

1 C flour

1 C sugar

1 C warm milk (110 degrees f)

2 non-metal bowls

non-metal spoon

clean kitchen towel

1 gallon-sized Ziploc bag


Day 1

Combine the yeast and water in one bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. In the other bowl, thoroughly combine flour and sugar.

Slowly add the milk and yeast to the flour and sugar mixture while stirring. Cover the bowl with kitchen towel.

Let sit at room temperature until it is bubbly. Pour into the Ziploc bag and seal it. Store it at room temperature – DO NOT refrigerate. Don't worry, this is safe, the yeast just needs to grow.

Day 2

Mash the bag.

Day 3

Mash the bag.

Day 4

Mash the bag.

Day 5

Mash the bag.

Day 6

1 C flour

1 C sugar

1 C warm milk (110 degrees f)

Add flour, sugar and milk to the bag, mash.

Day 7

Mash the bag.

Day 8

Mash the bag.

Day 9

Mash the bag.

Day 10

1 ½ C flour

1 ½ C sugar

1 ½ C warm milk (110 degrees f)

non-metal bowl

4 gallon-sized Ziploc bags

Pour contents of bag into non-metal bowl; add flour, sugar and milk. Stir thoroughly.

Measure out 4 separate batters of 1 C each into the Ziploc bags. Keep a starter for yourself and give three to friends along with a copy of this recipe. (Note: if you keep a starter, you will be baking every 10 days.) You should have 2 C of the batter remaining to bake with.

Be sure to tell your friends what day the starter is on when you pass it along, so they know where to pick up the instructions.

Final baking:

3 eggs

½ C milk

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

1 large box instant Vanilla Pudding

1 C oil

1 C sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp Baking Powder

2 C flour

2 large loaf pans

½ C sugar

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees f.

Add ingredients to the starter in the order given, stirring thoroughly after each.

Grease loaf pans. In a bowl, mix an additional ½ C sugar and 1 ½ tsp cinnamon – dust the inside of the pans with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture on top.

Bake bread for one hour, or until pick comes out clean. Cool until bread loosens from pan to turn onto serving plate.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apple Cobbler

Another quickie recipe post today - work has been madness and I haven't had a lot of time to write. I will put up a post soon about my job, so you can get an idea of what I'm doing. Until then:

Apple Cobbler

3 large or 4 small apples, peeled and sliced

1 C all-purpose flour

3/4 C sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 large egg (or 1/4 C eggbeaters)

1/4 C butter, melted

Put apples in the bottom of a lightly greased 8x8 inch baking dish. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and egg until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over the apples. Pour melted butter over the entire dish.

Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Quick, easy, delicious.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Easy A - Movie Review

If Emma Stone was not already a star for her roles in Superbad and Zombieland, Easy A has certainly made her one. Olive is an unpopular senior whose lie of losing her virginity to a college student is overheard and spread around the school. Further lies are told (at her monetary gain) to boost the popularity of her supposed partners, and with each one, her self esteem falls as her infamy rises. Stone perfectly fits the role of an intelligent but uncool teen, while being attractive enough that the storyline is believable. The woman has intense charisma, and I know we will see a lot more of her in the coming years.

The formula for Easy A was very much like that of Juno (2007) - a sharp, wise-cracking high school outcast with a quirky family, just trying to get by with a stigma put on her by classmates. Of course, Juno is stigmatized because she had sex (and got pregnant), while Olive is ostracized simply because people think she did.

Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are hysterical as Dill and Rosemary - Olive's not-quite-hippie parents. The banter of those two provided some of my favorite scenes in the movie - the discussion of their African-American son's adoption ("Who told you?!"), their daughter's name ("Is there an Olive here?" "Yes, there's a whole jar in the fridge.") and how it's OK to be gay ("I was gay once, everyone does it!"). I love Stanley Tucci more in every movie I see him in, and hopefully Easy A gives him an in on other teen comedies - amusing fathers or teachers are a necessity for this genre, and he fits the bill perfectly.

There were some incredibly poignant and topical scenes in the movie - the one in which the gay high school student begs Olive to help him because he is 'bullied every day and doesn't know if he can take any more of it' was especially moving, considering the number of suicides by LGBT teens recently. This was not missed by the audience in my theater either - all whispering conversation died as we watched a young man struggle with tears as he told of his abuse. Brandon eventually accepts who he is and escapes the torments of high school, as everyone participating in the It Gets Better project will tell you is possible.

That is the main thing that sets this movie apart from the one I keep hearing it compared to, Mean Girls (2004). Mean Girls was funny and a fairly accurate portrayal of high school, and I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong. But what it lacked was sincerity and heart - I don't recall a single moment in the movie where I thought "wow, that person is really hurting inside because of other people, I hope they'll be OK". In fact, the one gay character in Mean Girls is a walking stereotype, and seems completely unaffected by the rare, offhand slur in his direction. Not in the least realistic. Easy A had laughs aplenty, and a great deal of actual emotion behind it. There should be more movies of this nature and less of the inaccurate (and referenced throughout the movie) works of John Hughes. Teens should be able to see movies about actual teenage problems and solutions, not daydreams.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kobe - Restaurant Review

Kobe Japanese Grill and Sushi Bar
140 Shops Way
Biddeford, ME 04005

Tuesday was sushi day. After work I went grocery shopping and picked up a ready made container of spicy tuna and salmon sushi at our local Hannaford. Though not as good as Wegman's sushi, it is surprisingly good for coming from the Caucasian wasteland that is Maine. As it turned out, Dave, Tyler and I ended up trying the new Japanese restaurant in Biddeford that evening, so I got some real sushi a few hours later.

Having just received two parking tickets for the 10 minutes I had my car in the UNE lot - a plague on all UNE campus police - I was in a foul mood, and the pina colada - yes ma'am, with alcohol - I got because of it was extremely good. I am a fan of the compulsory pots of tea you find at Chinese establishments, and I wish other Asian restaurants did this as well, but no matter.

Because sushi is delicious and the hibachi fun, we ordered a mixture of both. Unlike many hibachi grills, the sushi at Kobe is actually the superior of the two foods, so I think in the future I will stick to just that. The lobster roll is very good, just watch out for the end piece, which, for some inexplicable reason, has part of the shell embedded in it as a decoration. This 'decoration' almost broke my teeth.

If you like enormous amounts of stir fry though, the hibachi is for you. The chef was very good and kept up a running commentary of terrible jokes (This is a Japanese egg roll! *spins an egg on the surface of the grill*) while making our food. At one point he made sure that we were all 21 and had insurance, and played a 'dangerous game' with us.

A note on the tossing food game: The object is for the chef to toss a piece of piping hot food from his spatula while the patron imitates a freshly hatched bird and attempts to catch the food in their gaping maw. A mushroom is ideal for this trick, or maybe a small piece of broccoli, though the latter tends to retain heat rather too well. A lump of scrambled eggs, however, while flying through the air, is reminiscent of the Columbia shuttle and results only in eggy bits and a stupid look all over one's face. Still, it was entertaining, and our reward for not catching any food was a mouthful of Saki. Dave got a double because he cheated and caught the egg with his hands.

The food was all good, and there was so much of it that I have leftovers for a week of lunches. It is a bit on the expensive side, so I suggest going on 'Crazy Tokyo Tuesday!' when the entire bill is 20% off. Just remember to tip both the chef and the waitress.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Acorn Squash

Here is an easy recipe - a delicious way to get some healthy vegetables into your diet! Who am I kidding, this isn't healthy. Sure tastes good though.

Classic Baked Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp maple syrup (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Using a large (and sturdy) knife, cut the acorn squash in half, lengthwise, from stem to end. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff in the center of each half. Score the insides of each half several times with a sharp knife. Place each half in a baking pan, cut side up. Add about a 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of the baking pan so that the skins don't burn and the squash doesn't dry out.

Coat the inside of each half with 1/2 a Tbsp of butter. Add a Tbsp of brown sugar to the cavity of each half. Add a teaspoon of maple syrup to each half if desired.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the squash is very soft and the tops are browned. Do not under-cook. Seriously, it will taste like crap. When finished, remove from oven and let cool a little before serving.

*Sorry for the lack of photos with this one - I forgot to take any until after we had already eaten it. Needless to say, it was tasty.*

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This Law Sucks! - The day Lady Gaga came to Portland

At 7:39 pm on Sunday, September 19th, Lady Gaga announced that she would be holding a rally the following day in a park in Portland, Maine for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

By 3:00 pm Monday, there were roughly 5,000 supporters in Deering Oaks Park.

She didn't sing, she didn't wear a crazy dress, and she was only there for about 18 minutes, but the audience loved it. Everyone there not only wanted to see the pop sensation, they also cared about the cause she is fighting for.

To readers who may not know, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a law passed in 1993 that prevents military service members from being openly gay or bisexual. If someone is outed, voluntarily or not, they are fired without retirement benefits. It is the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge. Since the laws passing, nearly 15,000 service members have been fired for admitting their non-heterosexuality.

When people began speaking at around 4:15pm, the crowd was animated and supportive. I was impressed with the amount of young people there - about 75% of the attendees were in my generation - who really seemed to care about the speakers.

First to speak was Nicholas Mavodones, Jr., the mayor of Portland. A major supporter of gay rights, the democratic mayor is clearly extremely popular with at least the younger crowd in Portland.

A number of former service men and women then spoke about their experiences. Some of them had been fairly new to the military when they were fired for being gay, but most of them had been in service for at least a decade. What struck me most was how much these people want to do their jobs. If they are willing to do so while hiding who they really are, then it seems evident that they truly love what they do. Discrimination in the workplace with regard to sexuality has been illegal for quite some time - why is the military any different?

After the service persons spoke came Maine congresswoman Chellie Pingree, another supporter of gay rights. She, like Mavodones, drew huge cheers. This interest of the youth in their political leaders is heartening.

Finally, to chants of "This Law Sucks!", our keynote speaker arrived. She delivered her already famous Equality is the Prime Rib of America speech amid cheers and storms of applause.

It is wonderful to see that, as a celebrity who got her start because of her gay fan-base, Lady Gaga is really giving back to her supporters.

* * *

Even as I write this post, the senate has refused to debate on the bill including the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Republican senators, including Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, voted unanimously against the bill, due in large part to the fact that the bill included a number of other controversial issues - like illegal immigration - and that the Democratic senators were attempting to block any amendments to the bill by the Republican senators.

While generally on the Democratic side, I am severely disappointed that this loss may have been solely due to the fact that the Democrats were not willing to give the other side an equal say.

While this loss is extremely disheartening - especially considering that the election in November will almost certainly lose the Democratic majority in the Senate - I have to believe that, like the womens' rights and civil rights movements, sexuality equality will eventually become a reality. Our children will look back on these events and wonder why it took so long for all people to truly be equal, but at least their America will be more accepting than ours is now.